Oral historian Marcie Cohen Ferris interviewed Ruth Finkelstein on August 30, 2001 in Baltimore MD as part of the "Weaving Women's Words" project.
Dr. Ruth Finkelstein, beloved doctor for generations of Baltimore women, promoted women's health and reproductive rights over a career that spanned half a century. Born in 1909, Ruth was raised in the Bronx and attended the Jacobi School, a private academy for Jewish girls. With her father's strong support, despite limited financial means, Ruth had come to Baltimore to study at Johns Hopkins University. She went on to become the first female student accepted from the undergraduate program into their medical school. After having graduated in 1935, she was denied entry into surgery as a specialty because of her gender. Ruth had decided to focus on obstetrics and remained in the field for over fifty years. Early in her career, Ruth worked as an assistant in Dr. Bessie Moses's Bureau for Contraceptive Advice (a forerunner of Planned Parenthood), which led to her active involvement in family planning issues. She married Harry Greenberg in 1942 and, with his encouragement, established a private practice in the early 1940s. After the birth of their two children, Emily and David, she juggled motherhood and career, creating clinics and programs focused on reproductive health for women and serving on the board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Ruth assisted and counseled numerous women who were unable to obtain legal abortions prior to the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. Ruth Finkelstein died on April 7, 2002.
Ruth Finkelstein photo: Credit Joan Roth. Joan Roth's website
In the early 2000s, the Jewish Women's Archive conducted oral history interviews with 30 Jewish women living in Baltimore and another 30 in Seattle. Born in the early decades of the 20th century, these women lived through decades of political, social, and economic upheaval, as well as dramatic changes in expectations and opportunities for women. Doctors and lawyers, teachers and saleswomen, judges and social workers, homemakers and community volunteers, the narrators represent a wide range of backgrounds, affiliations, and experiences of American Jewish women. To find out more and to see the online exhibits based on this project, visit Jewish Women's Archive/baltimore and Jewish Women's Archive/seattle
The complete audio recordings and transcripts of the interviews are available on the Internet Archive.
This project was made possible in part by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Brenda Brown Lipitz Rever Foundation, and the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, Inc. In Baltimore, the project was a collaboration with the Jewish Museum of Maryland; in Seattle, with the Museum of History and Industry.